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Published: Thursday, 3/8/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Video details fight to save I-75 crash victims

BLADE STAFF

Editor's note: The following video is an edited clip of the dash cam from the state trooper's car. The contents of this video may be disturbing to some.

BOWLING GREEN -- Video shot from the dashboard of an Ohio Highway Patrol cruiser shows a wrong-way driver passing the trooper on I-75 just moments before her car hits another vehicle head on, killing three Bowling Green State University students and injuring two others.

The patrol Wednesday released the dramatic video showing the view from Trooper Phil Mohre's car as troopers and passers-by try to get the doors open on the students' car and keep the survivors trapped inside calm after the accident Friday.

"It's going to be OK. We're going to get you," the trooper says. "Firefighters are coming too. Don't worry."

The trooper and passing motorists who stopped to help unsuccessfully to extinguish a fire that breaks out in the wrong-way driver's vehicle positioned behind the girls' car. They appear frustrated as they deplete their fire extinguishers, and the fire intensifies.

Winifred "Dawn" Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township died in the crash Friday morning, which also killed Christina Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich.; Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio. Two other passengers -- Kayla Somoles, 19, of Parma, Ohio, and Angelica Mormile, 19, of Garfield Heights, Ohio -- remained in critical condition Wednesday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

Miss Goyett was northbound on I-75 about 2:15 a.m. driving herself and four of her sorority sisters to Detroit Metro Airport to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight to the Dominican Republic for spring break when her car collided with Lein's vehicle, which was southbound in the northbound lanes.

A second carload of Alpha Xi Delta members passed the wrong-way driver just ahead of them, turned around at State Rt. 582 after they saw the crash, drove back, and pulled over.

At one point in the nearly 25-minute dash-cam video, an unidentified girl -- a passenger in the second BGSU car bound for the airport -- can be heard telling the trooper, "Those are our sisters. We're on our way to spring break."

The trooper urges her to stay away from the crash scene. "I want you to go stay by the car. Stay with the car, please," he said.

Fire crews later arrive to extinguish the car fire. The video ends before the students are extricated.

Lt. Dean Laubacher, commander of the Bowling Green post, said the dash-cam video unfortunately does not give investigators any new information about how or why the accident occurred. They do not know how Lein came to be driving the wrong way, he said, adding that they may never know.

"[The video] shows us that she was in the right lane -- the passing lane -- coming southbound on 75," he said. "That's really all it tells us."

The lieutenant said the video clears up questions surrounding the amount of time it took to locate and attempt to stop the wrong-way driver. Four motorists who passed the car called 911 and reported it to the Wood County Sheriff's Office.

Lieutenant Laubacher said though the sheriff's tapes indicated the first call came in at 2:10 a.m., "In actuality, we got the call at 2:14 a.m., and the crash was two minutes later."

The locations the callers gave turned out to be off by several miles, he said.

When Trooper Mohre got the first report of the wrong-way driver, he was stationed in the median of I-75 about two miles south of State Rt. 582. Lieutenant Laubacher said the initial report indicated the vehicle was near Milepost 193 at U.S. 20/23 so Trooper Mohre, under the belief the errant driver was close to Perrysburg, began driving north on I-75.

"He attempted to close the distance between himself and the vehicle; however, the location we were told she was at obviously was not where she was at because in less than a minute and a half she passes him at the 186," Lieutenant Laubacher said. "You see that on the in-car video. You see her passing."

Trooper Mohre immediately turns around and begins driving south in the berm of the northbound lanes. He doesn't go far, though, before seeing that the two cars have collided.

The lieutenant said the trooper did "everything he thought he could do" based on the information he was given.

"His thought process was to close the gap between him and her and get in front of as much traffic as possible. ... The trooper is thinking, 'How many people can I get in front of to possibly prevent from getting in a crash?' " Lieutenant Laubacher said. "All that went out the window when she passes him in a minute and some odd seconds."

Columbus bureau chief Jim Provance contributed to this report.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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